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Lauren Pazienza​, woman charged in death of 87-year-old singing coach Barbara Gustern, was upset before fatal shove, prosecutor says

Woman charged in death of NYC vocal coach
Woman charged with manslaughter in death of beloved New York vocal coach 01:08

A woman charged in the death of an 87-year-old Broadway singing coach in Manhattan pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and assault charges Tuesday and was detained after a judge revoked her $500,000 bail. Lauren Pazienza, 26, appeared before a judge as a prosecutor disclosed new details of the events leading up to the attack on Barbara Gustern.

Gustern suffered a head injury after being shoved to the ground on West 23rd Street in the Chelsea neighborhood on March 10 and died five days later.

Assistant District Attorney Justin McNabney said Pazienza became upset on the night of March 10 after she and her fiance were told to leave Chelsea Park, where they were eating meals from a food cart, because the park was closing soon. Pazienza stormed off, encountered Gustern while walking away and pushed Gustern to the ground, McNabney said.

NYPD 10th Precinct detectives walk Lauren Pazienza to face manslaughter charges for the shoving of 87-year-old Lauren Maker Gustern.
NYPD 10th Precinct detectives walk Lauren Pazienza to face manslaughter charges for the shoving of 87-year-old Lauren Maker Gustern. Luiz C. Ribeiro/NY Daily News via Getty Images

Pazienza had several glasses of wine beforehand while celebrating with her fiance that night because it was 100 days before their wedding, the prosecutor said. In an interview with police, Pazienza's fiance said she told him about the incident and said the elderly woman "might have said something" to her, although she wasn't sure.

Judge Felicia Mennin revoked Pazienza's bail after McNabney argued she was a flight risk and a threat to others. Pazienza's lawyer, John Esposito, said she was not a flight risk, and she did not know the victim was elderly.

Prosecutors say in the days after the incident, Pazienza fled to her parents' home in Port Jefferson on Long Island, avoiding her apartment in Astoria, Queens. They say she quickly deleted her social media accounts.

"What she did needs to have consequences," Gustern's friend Morgan Jenness told CBS New York.

Jenness, who took vocal classes from Gustern and became her friend, agreed with the judge's decision to take away bail for Pazienza.

"She ran across the street to push an elderly woman for no reason because she was having a temper tantrum and pushed her so hard that she hit her head and bled out and died," Jenness said. 

At the March 26 memorial service for Gustern, grandson A.J. spoke about the shocking death of the woman he affectionally called "Bob Bob."

"What are the collective choices we make that allow such a positive force of nature like my Bob Bob to be murdered across the street from this very church," A.J. Gustern said.

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